Donald Trump’s philosophy is never to use a scalpel when a meat ax is available, and so it is with his attack on the Clinton scandals of the 1990s.
And yet, in slamming Hillary as Bill’s “enabler” and daring to invoke the allegation of rape against Clinton, Trump is again demonstrating his unsurpassed ability to needle his opponents and expose their vulnerabilities.
Hillary tends to get a pass, because the 1990s were long ago, the media often scold anyone who brings up the scandals, and most politicians hesitate to talk about someone else’s marriage. Unconstrained by these boundaries, Trump is hitting her with his characteristic abandon.
The Clinton campaign in 1992 reportedly spent $100,000 on private-detective work related to women. The approach, when rumors first surfaced, was to get affidavits from women denying affairs — the reflex of most women is to avoid exposure — and, failing that, to use any discrediting tool at hand.
Hillary was fully on board. When a rock groupie alleged that a state trooper approached her on Governor Clinton’s behalf, Hillary said “we have to destroy her story.”
When the Star tabloid subsequently reported that Clinton had affairs with five Arkansas women, including Gennifer Flowers, the Clinton campaign waved affidavits signed by all them denying it. (This is what Clinton had advised Flowers to do in a taped conversation.) Then, Flowers admitted to a 12-year affair.
After Bill’s election, state troopers told of how they had procured women for him, and one of the procured was Paula Jones. When she came forward, she was abused as trailer-park trash, even though her story of a gross come-on by Clinton in a hotel room was completely credible.
Hillary had as much interest in forcefully rebutting allegations of sexual misconduct as Bill did.
Hillary apparently didn’t spare a moment’s thought why her husband the governor would have wanted a private meeting with a 24-year-old state employee. She interviewed superlawyer Bob Bennett to handle the Jones sexual-harassment suit and insisted on a hardline defense. Bennett spread rumors of nude pictures of Jones and had another lawyer subpoena men to try to find evidence of Jones’s alleged promiscuity.
Hillary was even more instrumental to the defense in the Monica Lewinsky case, setting the tone of the White House response in her “vast right-wing conspiracy” appearance on Today.
The allegation the Clintons have never truly grappled with is Juanita Broaddrick’s charge of rape. Her story has been consistent over the years; she told people about the alleged assault at the time; and her account includes details that accord with what other woman have said about encounters with Bill.Perhaps you think Hillary had to stand by her man, or she correctly calculated that the broader political project — both of the Clintons and of liberalism – justified waging political war against a few inconvenient women. Even so, there is no doubt Hillary compromised herself, by the standards of feminism 20 years ago, and even more by the standards of today.
Is there anyone more “privileged” than a white male who is a governor and president? Even if you don’t believe the worst, Bill didn’t live up to contemporary norms of consent, to put it mildly. If consistency mattered, feminists would demand safe spaces whenever Bill Clinton approached a college campus.
Hillary’s answer to Trump’s offensive is telling — nothing. Sometimes there’s just not a good answer.
— Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: [email protected]. © 2016 King Features Syndicate